Monday, March 27, 2017

Get Out

Directed by Jordan Peele.
2017. Rated R, 104 minutes.
Daniel Kaluuya
Allison Williams
Catherine Keener
Bradley Whitford
LilRel Howery
Lakeith Stanfield
Stephen Root
Betty Gabriel
Caleb Landry Jones
Marcus Henderson

When I first saw the trailer for Get Out a few months ago, I decided against seeing it in a theater. It was an interesting trailer, but it contained a damning piece of information. It was advertised as being hatched "from the mind of Jordan Peele." My initial thought was 'The guy from Key & Peele? Oh, hell naw!' It's not that I don't like Key & Peele. I appreciate their brand of comedy. They're funny and they have something to say. Like I said, though. It's comedy. The trailer clearly marked this as a horror flick. Horror is a genre I hold near and dear to my heart. If I'm going to plunk down some hard earned cash for some thrills and frights, I'm not handing it over to the court jester. I figured I'd see it, but at home for free, at some point. Besides, I didn't think I would have anyone to go with me. Mrs. Dell does not do horror.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the firestick. Everyone started talking about how good Get Out is. And I do mean everyone. I tend to avoid news and reviews about movies I haven't seen, especially when I know that I'm definitely going to see them. I couldn't quite do that. I didn't read any reviews, but a friend of mine whom I occasionally talk movies with sends me a text letting me know that at that moment Get Out had a rating of 100% on the tomatometer. He also let me know he was going to see it that night. Next, my co-workers started hitting me with "Oh man, have you seen Get Out? Oh my god, you gotta go see it. Thankfully, none of them spoiled it for me. My daughters, both teenagers, came home from school telling me we had to go see it because that's all everyone at school was talking about. Mrs. Dell's friends even convinced her she needed to see it. That meant, she was the next person in my ear practically begging me to see this film. My friend who sent me the text, sent me another. He was royally pissed that the score for the movie on the tomatometer went down to 99%. As you can tell, I had no choice but to load up the fam and head to the nearest theater. And so, I did.

The story follows Chris (Kaluuya), a young man in a pretty serious relationship with his girlfriend Rose (Williams). We meet him as he prepares to go with Rose to spend the weekend at her parents' house. It's the first time he's meeting them and, like any guy in that position he's worried about making a good impression. However, he's far more worried about the impression they make on him. The issue is that Rose, who is white, has neglected to tell her parents that Chris is black. This is especially pertinent information since she's never before had a black boyfriend. She assures him that "they're not like that," and will absolutely love him. As he suspects, once he gets there her parents, Dean (Whitford) and Missy (Keener), go out of their way to prove "they're not like that." It comes off as condescending, at best, but more likely a veil for their racism when combined with their staff of docile black servants. Pretty quickly, Chris realize something even more sinister than mere bigotry might be at play and finds himself falling down a rather peculiar rabbit hole.

Earlier, I mentioned the Key & Peele brand of comedy. If you're familiar with it, you know it's steeped in racial satire. Tensions between blacks and whites is an oft-visited topic. Their gift is the ability to explore it from so many angles while still maintaining a level of freshness and poignancy to their work. Get Out is yet another angle from which to approach the subject. Not surprisingly, the film fares best when it sticks close to Peele's roots and goes for satire. At these moments, it functions more like a dark comedy, heavily infused with social commentary. Mostly, it illuminates how implicit racism works. Both liberals and conservatives are skewered as the film uses its white characters as archetypes for various types of people who engage in racist behavior, whether they realize it or not.

Black characters are slyly complex. Though, they are shown as being a rather creepy form of agreeable and subservient, each of these people are also waging internal wars with themselves. This is a brilliant way to pose questions Black America has been dealing with since the end of slavery. How much of yourself must you sacrifice to become accepted in predominantly white circles? Is it worth it? The answers come a bit on the easy side, but this isn't a film about the answers. It's about the day-to-day struggle of these people and the havoc that struggle is having on their sense of identity.

On both sides of the racial aisle, we get wonderful performances. As Chris, Daniel Kaluuya strikes a nice balance between freaking out and taking it all in stride. In other words, and with the help of a wonderful script by Peele, Kaluuya plays Chris as a guy who predicts a number of things that are going to happen to him, but still manages to take it in stride and not completely freak out. By the time he does lose it, it's at the perfect time for the film. It's very good work by Kaluuya in what amounts to a scream queen role. Betty Gabriel and Lakeith Stanfield turn in excellent work as Georgina and Andrew, respectively. LilRel Howery gives us a ton of comic relief in the role of the ever-faithful best friend. Bradley Whitford gives us a wonderful villain, one of them, anyway. He gives off a sufficiently weird vibe. In the audience, we can feel this a mile away, but we also recognize his ability to make Chris feel as if he's harmless, if not as enlightened as he thinks. Stephen Root gives us another of the bad guys. It's a lesser role, in terms of screen-time, but Root plays it perfectly.

The film struggles a bit when it makes what turn out to be too blatant attempts at horror. Most of these are cheap attempts at jump scares that don't quite work, if you've seen a few scary movies. Characters suddenly appear accompanied by the hardest struck chords in cinematic history. There are two exceptions. The first is a bizarre moment which has become an internet challenge. The other deals with Rose's mom, Missy, hypnotizing Chris. I don't think I'm giving too much away, but just in case, we'll call this a minor spoiler alert. When she hypnotizes Chris, she puts him in what's called "The Sunken Place." It's a brilliant representation of how many black people feel in America. We're in a place we didn't ask to be, and have on average, started our life journeys on a lower rung of the ladder than others, a sunken place, if you will. It's also representative of the idea that racism is more psychological than physical. As the old adage goes, he who out-thinks you can control you. Catherine Keener steps into the role and delivers the film's best performance. Where Whitford is a bit on the creepy side, Keener is downright scary.

My biggest beef with Get Out is the ending. I'm going to tread carefully, here, since I don't want to give anything away. The truth is I found it to be a bit of cop-out. It is a bit of a surprise, since I was bracing for something different as I was watching the climactic scenes unfold. When it didn't happen, I understood why, but was still a bit disappointed. That feeling intensified when I came across something Jordan Peele himself said about the ending. I'm going to paraphrase, by the way. Basically, he said the ending of the film is not the one he intended. It was the one I was anticipating. He didn't change it due to any studio meddling, thank goodness. He did it based on his feelings about certain events in the news over the last couple years. Had he stuck with the original ending, the movie would've been punctuated with the kick in the gut the entire film builds toward. As it stands, it is still an excellent movie with tons to take away and discuss.


  1. Oooh, great review! This movie snuck up on me, too. I'd dismissed it as being just another Horror movie I'd avoid eternally, but everyone is raving about it! I'm gonna have to brave it, I know. Great review :)

    1. I really think you should. That said, I am not sure how much of the social commentary translates across the pond.

  2. I was very much in the same position as you, Dell, when it came to wanting to see this movie: I thought the trailer looked like an unholy mess, potentially good, but a mess nonetheless. And then everyone and their mother started talking about how good it was, so I went to see it. In Harlem. In a theater full of people who had no problems talking back to the screen, which GREATLY added to the experience. I enjoyed it on the whole, although I fully admit I thought the social commentary and horror elements were both a bit rote. BUT, after thinking about it and reading some more reviews (yours now included), I do think it is far slyer about the commentary/satire than I initially thought. Either way, it's still a damn good movie, and this is a damn good review!

    1. I saw it in a full theater, but a predominantly white one. In defiance of stereotypes, it was also a pretty vocal crowd and they did benefit the film tremendously. Thanks! I'm glad to be part of the crew helping you to rethink certain aspects.

  3. Aw, shit. What was the original ending? Did it have to do with the cop car? 'Cause that's what I was thinking and I just about lost my mind for a second. That would have been f--king brutal (and probably not too 'feel good', ya know?). I gotta look into it.

    Great review. I think the fact that this was a family outing must have made for a fantastic ride home.

    And that court jester line was perfect. Well played, good sir.

    1. So I don't spoil it, here, I'll point you in the direction of this article...

      And yes, it was a very interesting ride home.

  4. I've heard a lot about this film as I might see it if it's on TV. Oh, and the person who panned that film is none other than the troll Armond White. That's one person who should never have his reviews be submitted for Rotten Tomatoes or any critic site. He just does this shit for attention when he's really got nothing to say other than the fact that he's a fucking asshole.

    1. I suggest definitely seeing it. It really is excellent. And I knew exactly who the troll was and said pretty much the same thing you did when I was talking to my friend.

  5. I saw Get Out this week. A strong, original directorial debut. I liked how the film keeps the viewer guessing, which heightens the suspense.
    Enjoyed reading your review. You make some interesting points, that black america has to sacrifice to become accepted in white circles. How whites put blacks in "The Sunken Place", a spot they didn't ask to be.

    1. Really glad you enjoyed this as it find it fascinating and poignant. Of course, I am especially happy you liked my review and found some use for it.